Friday, June 30, 2006

Jennifer's Construction Zone

Ever since colic and post-partum depression struck, I have – in true Dutch fashion – been busy plugging holes with my fingers (I’ve only got 10 that can’t span very far) instead of taking the time and energy to rebuild and refurbish the dam. Patching the smaller breaches as they pop up allows you keep yourself in denial. It allows you to overlook the fact that the ultimate source of those breaches, if not dealt with, will someday cause a violent rupture. It’s a rupture that could have been prevented by thoughtful and perhaps costly maintenance. Patching additionally affords you a sense of control. “My life isn’t crumbling down around me. See – I took care of that.” As long as you avoid honest introspection and keep your defenses up, all can be well in your world until that next breach starts leaking.

It’s been two months now since I’ve decided that instead of waiting anxiously to drown when my dam broke that I would prefer to take stock of what is good in my life, what requires a tune up and maintenance and what needs to be demolished. As I mentioned in April, a visit with new OB/GYN woke me up. Until that time I believed that my dark, wacked-out, compulsive thoughts and feelings weren’t dark, wacked-out and compulsive. They were God’s truth and valid. Her words were the slap across the face that I needed to start down the right path. I was in such a daze of depression that I lost some sense of what was real. Had I realized that at the time I would have been very afraid – or at least very afraid for the right reasons.

Dr. M prescribed me an anti-depressant and referred me to a therapist. I filled the prescription and made the appointment. Both are the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time. The medication helped to clear up the sludge in my brain so that I could do the heavy duty work in my heart and soul. S, my therapist, is just the person I needed in that role. She has a great sense of humor and uses it well to pin me to the wall and make me see things that I need to notice.

During our first meeting she listened to my story. There is a release in paying someone to listen to you. I could say what I wanted and needed to say without worrying about being a burden or being judged. She explained to me how depression contorts one’s perception of the outside world as well as one’s internal thoughts. After I explained how looking at Allison made me relive her birth and go around and around in my head about how if I had only done X or only done Y that things would have been different. In those times that I drifted away from my life, I imagined that I did every thing perfectly that day and as a result Allison was always born vaginally, without pain medication and my problems were solved. She reminded me that Dr. G told me at the time that Allison was born that I had done everything that I could have possibly done to have a natural childbirth. Dr. G said Allison would never have been born on her own. Contrary to what I had been telling myself, he wasn’t saying that to trick me into feel better. Although it’s not something I’d ever thought about, he hadn’t even been speaking to directly at the time. I was semi-coherent at the time. He had been talking to the others in the room. What happened was not my “fault.” She even questioned that fact that I used the word fault at all. She said, “So you’re blaming and beating yourself up day in and day out because you used your common sense and chose to trust your doctor to help where biology was lacking? You’re blaming and beating yourself up because you chose to have a healthy baby by surgery as opposed to delivering a dead baby the old fashioned way – if you were lucky to make it that far yourself?” Why couldn’t I have seen it that way myself? I should be proud that I chose a good doctor and made the best decisions I could for Allison all along. Instead, I beat myself up because I didn’t live up to standards I put in place for myself that weren’t really my own to begin with. That’s when I started to see that my thoughts were indeed dark, wacked-out and compulsive.

At the end of the meeting she gave me some ideas for ways of stopping the compulsive thoughts I was having about Allison and about her birth. She also told me to be kind to myself. I was able to put a good stop to the thoughts. I know when they are getting started and I can pretty easily move on. I haven’t looked at Allison and thought about the c-section for a long time now. It’s seems odd to me now that I ever did. However, being kind to myself is still problematic. What does that mean exactly? I know better than anyone else how much I don’t deserve being treated kindly. If anything, I feel as though I am already too kind to myself. If I only I was stricter I could be [fill in the blank]. I worry that if I let go of the restrictions, rules and laws that I have spent a lifetime constructing (but not living up to) in order to be kind to myself that all hell will break loose. Am I not underneath a raging, ugly beast just dying to break loose of my confines anyway? What would happen if there was nothing to keep me in check?

After about four weeks I could say that I was free or at least becoming free of the depression. I certainly am more aware of thoughts that were not rational. I’m also more aware of what an anxious person I am. During our first meeting S said that if she weren’t seeing me for depression she would be seeing me for anxiety. I had no idea what she was talking about. When the depression lifted, the anxiety began moving in. I can see what she meant. Getting help with the depression made it possible to see the underlying cause.

S has pointed out that I have issues with perfection. It made me cry when she said that. I guess because it struck a chord. I would never have thought of myself as a perfectionist because I’m not in the ways that I would typically think of a perfectionist. To me a perfectionist is someone who is organized and keeps things clean at all times. The difference is that those types of perfectionism are pointed at the outside world. I point mine internally. It’s an all or nothing, now or never viewpoint. If I’m not the ideal, I am the polar opposite. I’m either following Weight Watchers to the letter or I’m eating out of control. I either experience “the virgin birth” or I am a failure. No wonder I am anxious. The real kicker is that those ideals that I fall so far short of aren’t necessarily even my own. They are someone else’s – and more often – what I assume are someone else’s. I jump to the conclusion that things are done and said as a criticism of who I am, my work, you name it. Paranoia light with headaches, tight muscles and clenched jaw. When I’m in that mode, even dark movies can raise my anxiety so high that my stomach hurts, that I can’t sleep and once even made me throw up.

My second major piece of homework thus far is to decide what my standards are. To determine what is important to me. And guess what – because I want to or because it makes me feel good is reason enough. I don’t have to justify my thoughts, actions or decisions. It is okay for me to think, feel and act for myself. I can be my own advocate instead of my own worst nightmare. Just as with being kind to myself, this is difficult for me as well. How does one go about determining personal standards? How do I know whether something that makes me feel good is actually good or bad? I don’t really trust that I can make these decisions correctly.

There’s a lot of work ahead. There’ll be an “Under Construction” sign beside my dam for a long time to come. Still, it feels good to start making sound structural changes slowly instead of spackling cracks and hoping that they stick and are not noticed by others. I am on my way to living my own life instead of the life I assume others would want me to live. I am on my way to becoming my own architect.

A Week of Firsts*

* Reprinted from various email messages

First #1) Allison came down with diarrhea. Although there have been occasional instances that could qualify as diarrhea in the past, our first case of multiple, consistent diarrhea started Saturday morning.

First #2) On Saturday afternoon while Allison went down for her nap, I told Emma that she could avoid taking a nap herself if she played quietly in her room. She complied as was very quiet. Then, about 35 minutes later, she came out of her room to get a paper towel. When I asked her what she wanted a paper towel for, she didn't answer. I followed her back to her bedroom. She received a makeup set from the bride and groom as a gift a few weeks earlier. That set contained two bottles of nail polish. I did not realize that it had been placed on the top shelf of her hutch. The nail polish had been spilled all over her (once) beautiful toy chest, on the carpet and all over her. Actually, what was on her was probably self-applied. You hear stories about parents who "see red" when their children do extremely naughty things. I was seeing a deep, pulsing red. I do think that I passed this test. I never once yelled. I didn't kill her. I didn't maim her. I quietly tried to clean up the mess as best as I could with that pulsing red light in front of my eyes. Emma knew that she was in trouble, too. I asked her to get on her bed and she did quickly and without question. She later asked me if I was mad. I said very and she kept quiet after that. When I left the room, I told her that she was to stay in her bed until I came to get her. She didn't even cry when I closed the door. I can't remember how long it took my blood pressure to return to normal, but it eventually did. When Danny got home, he talked with her and we agreed that her punishment was to be grounded from her bike for a week. In true kid fashion, she did find a way to displace some of the blame when she said to Danny, "You shouldn't have left my makeup in my room."

First #3) Our local scrapbooking store held a yard sale for its customers. Anyone with items to sell signed up for a code number and brought their items in before the sale on Saturday. The money earned at the sale could be spent on anything at the store. It was like turning things I didn't want or couldn't use into free stuff! On Sunday, the store called me and I found out that I sold $56.55 worth of stuff! I was so excited that I went to the store that afternoon. Danny watched the kids for me so I could shop by myself. Once I was there, I wandered around not quite sure what to pick. I got several rub on letter sets that were buy one get one free to maximize my money. I got a new pair of scissors and some embellishments for the page I'm going to make for Emma about her first bike (felt somewhat ironic to select that given her punishment from the day before). I also needed to pick up what wasn't sold. The lady couldn't find my items and I said that the only thing I really wanted back if it didn't sell was my green Creative Memories album. I'm glad that I said that. During the day the tag had fallen off. Someone wanted it, but without the tag, they didn't know how much to sell it for and who to give the credit to. So, my $56.55 actually went up to $71.55! I used my extra windfall to get some cute new papers and matching embellishments. Boy, was I excited!

First #4) My manager is on vacation this week and Danny's dad was scheduled to have his kidney stone removed surgically on Tuesday. Given those things happening at the same time, you know that Allison's diarrhea would continue. I dropped her off at daycare on Monday because she was acting like herself and had only had one incident on Sunday. I got a call around 3 to please pick her up. Her lunch went right through her and she was acting miserable. I picked both kids up and took some sick time. I planned on doing the same thing on Tuesday because she caught the virus there and she was, for the most part, acting like herself. She didn't have a fever and she wasn't vomiting.

First #5) She wasn't vomiting, that is, until 12:30 Tuesday morning. She was in our bed and I could sense her hovering over my head. She does this often and I lay very still so that she goes back to sleep. This time, I heard a strange noise and sat up. Good thing - not five seconds later my pillow was covered in vomit. Until 12:30 Tuesday morning, I'd never had a child vomit due to illness. The poor thing had it coming out both ends and was so upset. She went through two sets of pajamas before I bundled her up in just her blanket and diaper. I've worried about how I would handle it when one of my kids got sick. Just as with First #3, I did just fine. You don't know what you're capable of until you are tested. Danny and I tag teamed well. He rocked her while I cleaned everything up and started the laundry. As soon as I was finished, she wanted her mommy. As tired as I was by 3am, I was so happy to be there for her - and just thankful to have escaped the face full of puke. Had that happened, Danny probably would have been cleaning up after the both of us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

20 22nds

Today marks the 20th 22nd day of the month since Allison Marie Grace joined our family. I can’t tell you how much I love her and cherish her. What got off to a rocky start has turned into a warm breeze of a ride along the beach at sunset. She is growing everyday into a more charismatic and loving daughter, sister and little girl. I am astonished that someone so beautiful, joyful and unique made her d├ębut from inside my belly. She is a wonder to me.

Happy 20th month birthday, Allison, Ally, AllyBaby, AllyCat, Ally McBeal, AllyGator, AllyBaba, HunkaBunk. I don’t have enough names to express how much I love you.

WANTED - Your Coke Reward Points

I got this idea from my brilliant friend - who does not drink Diet Coke or Coke of any kind... Thank you for thinking outside of the box for me.

I am collecting Coke Reward Points this summer. If you drink Coke products and get Reward Points and do not claim them, I would be so happy if you sent them my way. They are under 20 ounce and 2-liter drink caps and on the inside flap of 12 pack cases. I will gladly use them.

In the meantime, have a Coke and a smile.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Here Comes the Flower Girl

Here are the pictures I promised of Nick and Emily Maximiv's adorable flower girl...


She may be heading in the wrong direction, but Emma's spreading flower petals perfectly.


Thomas and Emma take a break on the grass while waiting for their pictures to be taken.


Emma shares her first slow dance with Thomas. Nick's grandmother taught them where to put their arms and how to sway. It was too cute.

Monday, June 12, 2006

You Can Practice Too Hard

** Pictures to follow later **

Nick, one of my employees, got married on Saturday. He and his wife Emily asked Emma to be their flower girl. So, Emma took her second jaunt down the aisle in just under two short years. By all accounts, Emma was beautiful and perfect. You don’t need to take my word for it. Still, you will have to believe my hearsay… :)

Saturday morning I had Emma practice spreading shredded pieces of paper down the hallway. I showed her how to sprinkle multiple “petals” at one time. She did very well. After each time, I said, “Now let’s pick them up so we can try again.” Fast forward to the time of the actual ceremony. Emma and Thomas, the ring bearer, held hands until they reached the chairs set up on the lawn. At that point, they let go and Emma started to sprinkle the rose petals on the ground. Because Danny wasn’t sitting in the chairs (a guest had a service dog with her and Ally freaked out – but that’s another story), Emma wouldn’t go any further than past the first row of chairs. After she spread out the entire basket of flowers, I tried to get her into the aisle to sit down with me. She wouldn’t budge. Instead, she went back into the aisle and started to pick the petals back up! I had to grab her and bring her into the aisle with me because she almost got in the bride’s way. I should have thought to tell her that she needed to leave the actual rose petals on the ground for Emily to walk on. Funny how children only follow the letter of the law at the most inopportune times…

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

For E, With Love

On the drive back home from Emma’s picnic, I thought about the moments E spent with Emma before we came to the hospital the day after she was born. Almost immediately after meeting E, P and S, Danny and I decided that we wanted to remain involved with them. Letters, email and pictures wouldn’t be enough. We would miss them if we never saw them. We spoke to the social worker about arranging meetings. Joy suggested meeting at the agency’s picnic every summer. At the time our adoption was planned as semi-open. The picnic in Richmond would allow all of us to maintain our anonymity. We were excited to ask them about it. Still, E had no idea of what we were thinking those the days leading up to Destiny’s (Emma’s birth name and her special third name today) birth, when she lovingly gave Destiny life, the first time she held her, the first time she fed her, the first time she kissed her, the first time she counted her fingers and toes. During those times, I can only assume that she had to try to come to terms with the idea that she might never see her beautiful baby girl ever again. It breaks my heart that she had to feel that for even one minute. E was only 15 when Emma was born. She was making the best plans she could for her and for her baby. I know that she would give anything to have been able to parent her baby. At the same time that I love being Emma’s mommy, I wish that things could have worked out differently for E. I wish that Destiny could have been conceived when E was older and in a better position to raise her. All I can say is that I am honored that she selected Danny and me to be Destiny's parents. I am honored that she trusted us enough to raise her daughter thinking that she might never see her again. I am thankful that she has not been alone in this. Although J, Emma’s birth father, dropped out of the picture when he was needed the most, E’s parents supported her. They have not made her feel ashamed. They were there to listen to her hopes, wishes and dreams for both her own life and that of Destiny’s. They were there to hold E’s hand the afternoon that we first met and started our journey as a new family together. They treated her like the parent she is, not the child she was. They were there to cry with her after she left the hospital empty handed. They provide comfort and support for E in ways I only wish that I could. I am proud of Emma’s roots. They are strong, beautiful and full of love. I am proud that Danny and I chose to embrace our lives as adoptive parents openly. I am thankful that they will never have to experience their life without Destiny. May the example set by E, P and S help to make our family as strong, beautiful and full of love as theirs.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Emma's Special Picnic

Saturday marked Emma's fourth annual picnic with E, her birthmother, and Grandma (P) and Grandpa B (S), her maternal birth-grandparents. It was a wonderful time for us all. As much as E, P and S feel blessed by our continued physical contact, our family is blessed tenfold. I cannot tell you how life affirming those times are for us. I am looking forward to the day when Emma has a better understanding of her adoption. I am so glad that she will always know that her birthfamily loves her beyond all understanding.

Traditionally, the first Saturday of June has consisted of crappy weather since Emma was born. This year was a bit better. Although it was overcast and threatened to rain, the clouds kept the heat down and gradually made way for the sunshine. We were able to enjoy our picnic lunch and play with the kids without getting sticky and uncomfortable.

After we got to the park, the girls didn't want a thing to do with eating. I had a nice visit with them while the kids were playing. As soon as E and S finished eating, they joined Danny and the girls out on the playground. E didn't mention it herself, but P told me how much it meant to their family that we were raising Emma to know about her history and roots in such an open and loving way. After I wrote my blog about explaining adoption to Emma, I emailed the birthfamily to tell them. Since they didn't email back, I was concerned that I might have hurt their feelings by mentioning it. That was the furthest thing from the truth. I had no idea how much power such a simple act as writing that email would have. She told me just how lucky they feel that E selected "the best" parents for Emma. What an honor it is for Danny and I to have the opportunity to link our family with theirs. I can't imagine it any other way.

S and E had fun playing alone with Emma on the playground while Danny and Ally ate lunch. Emma told them all about school, her friends and the things that she liked. E emailed later and told me that she couldn't believe how much Emma had grown up and opened up since Christmas. Later in the afternoon everyone went down by the creek to see some big tadpoles. Apparently E almost slipped into the creek and screamed as she stopped herself. Emma just loves to talk about that.

Just as always, the girls were spoiled by E, P and S. They had a great time opening and playing with their gifts. Emma's favorite gift by far was a pair of flip flops. They have beads on them and Emma fell in love at first sight. She wouldn't even let me take the tag off before she ran out on to the playground. P and I laughed about how she must take after Minnie Pearl just a little bit. S bought each of the girls these plastic toy tubes. If you hold one end and swing them around, it makes a funny, whiste type of sound. E was worried that the girls would end up hitting each other with them. Instead, they look like Star Wars geeks waving fake light sabers at each other. They couldn't use them as weapons if they wanted to.

Emma called P "Grandma" for the first time at the picnic and I enjoyed watching P's face light up. P has health issues that make walking around difficult, but when Emma said, "Grandma, come here!" she couldn't resist.

Emma also hugged S for the first time in a long time. S has a mustache and Emma doesn't really know what to think about it. At our last few get togethers, Emma wouldn't hug or kiss him because of it. This time she gave him a hug.

We got some wonderful pictures of Emma, E, P and S. We also got a wonderful picture of E and Emma on a tire swing. I know that Emma will treasure them so much some day.

Although nice, the 4 hour drive each way made for a long day for all of us. By the time we got home, it was way past Ally's bed time. We were all exhausted, but it felt good. Making memories is worth every bit of it.

A Potty First

Sunday afternoon I dropped Allison off at Danny's parent's house so that I could do a little shopping in peace. It was a nice couple of hours all to myself (finding a cute outfit at Target for under $20 was icing on the cake). When I went to pick Ally up, Granny had some wonderful news: Allison told them that she had to pee. They set up the toilet seat trainer for her, stripped her down and sat her on the potty. I'm not sure that they were expecting anything, but Ally peed! She's pottied in Emma's potty chair before, but it was after I got her ready for her bath and put her there while I started the water. She didn't tell me that she needed to pee or otherwise acknowledge that she had. This is a first and, at just 19 months, a relatively early one at that! Emma was much older before she showed any interest. The advantages of having more than one child are starting to arrive. Thank God!

Ally is proud of her accomplishment, too. She just beams with pride every time I talk about it. The other person doesn't even have to be in the same room. When I called my parents with the good news, she practically blushed. Awareness of one's bodily bathroom functions is a joyous, joyous thing indeed.

This weekend also marked the time when sitting in a dirty diaper became downright unacceptable for Ally. I'm not putting the horse before the cart. I remember very well that there is a big difference between occassional potty successes and being potty trained. We're headed in the right direction. Freedom from diapers and some extra savings are right around the corner. I hope that Sam's Club doesn't go out of business when we stop buying Huggies there...

Upheaval

I haven't been able to do nearly as much blogging and reading as I would like to these days. Things at my 9 to 5 are becoming increasingly unsettled. We only have dial up access at home, so I used my breaks and lunch time to do most of my posting and surfing. That won't be the case any longer. If I haven't visited your site in a while, please don't think it's because I'm too busy for you. That's not the case. From here on in, I will have to put up with the snail's pace I have at home.

Note to all politicians: I will vote for anyone who will work to get DSL service out here in the boondocks. People may think otherwise, but we're not all salt-of-the-earth farmers or hicks out here. Some of us just want to get away for some peace and quiet - perferably with high speed Internet access.

The good news is that this will mean much less time doing nothing in front of the TV. This may very well break my Law & Order addiction. Danny will be most pleased.

Trista, Please Sit Down Before Reading

I scrapbooked three pages for Emma last night. I finished the Ft. Sumter and Children Museum pages. They turned out really nice. Once I finish the ocean pages from our trip she'll be caught up to Allison. Whoo Hoo!